Belle de Jour
Reviewed by Dec 13th, 2009

Séverine (Catherine Denueve) is a young, beautiful housewife who is frigid. Though her husband is patient and understanding with her, he is obviously upset by his wife consistently resisting his sexual advances. After learning an old friend of hers has become a prostitute, a creepy friend of the her husband tells Séverine the address of a nearby Paris brother. Clearly conflicted about her actions, she goes to the address and meets Mme Anais, the brother madam, who tells her to come back and start work later in the day. She does, and this improves her sexual relationship with her husband. She only works in the afternoons and leaves by 5:00, which is why Anais decides to call her “Belle de Jour.”

The entire film is strewn with bizarre dream/fantasy episodes involving Séverine and her husband in a carriage in the woods and which end in sequences of Séverine being raped, beaten or generally humiliated. This totally blurs the line between fantasy and reality, and in the end of the film it’s impossible to tell how much of it was supposed to be really happening at all. And this is why it’s such a good film.

The creepy friend, Husson, later claims he was only ever attracted to Séverine because of her purity, and he often voices his respect for her “boy-scout”-like husband Pierre. Séverine meets a couple of Italian criminals, the younger and creepier of whom takes an immediate liking to Séverine, which escalates into obsession. This causes Séverine much trouble and she decides to quit her job, but it’s too late to escape the consequences.

When I bought a copy of this I was kind of shocked to see it being described on the box like it was some kind of romantic comedy and described by adjectives like “sexy.” Sure, Denueve is a very good-looking woman, and the movie revolves around sex, but that doesn’t make it a sexy movie. It has its funny parts, but it’s also creepy and disturbing. A really weird movie, and classic Bunuel.

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